CiFAR “Investigate West Africa” programme: looking ahead

In May 2021, we launched the third installment of our “Investigate” training series, this time targeting francophone and anglophone journalists from West Africa and Europe. In partnership with the investigative center CENOZO, based in Burkina Faso, and other partner journalists from the OCCRP and the ICIJ, and supported by GIZ, we trained and mentored a cohort of 30 journalists to develop and publish their own financial investigations.

In summer 2021, participants attended an extensive five day online training, covering a wide range of topics, practical tools and techniques to report on financial crime and asset recovery. These topics included, amongst others: Investigative Journalism 101, Security and Safety for journalists, Financial Reading, Public Asset Theft & Corruption and Asset Recovery, OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) resources.

In the following months, the 30 journalists got the opportunity to learn other aspects of investigative journalism through individual online training sessions, while starting to brainstorm and develop their very own investigative projects under the supervision of a mentor. Participants benefited from a limited number of grants in order to work on their ideas. These activities were led jointly by CiFAR and CENOZO, with the support of key international and regional experts, who helped selecting high potential investigative stories, among a list of over 30 proposals sent out by the participants.

These stories were then shortlisted and discussed further during an in-person 4-days training held in Saly, Senegal. Among the 30 proposals, 10 cross-border leads were selected to be further developed, with the objective to see at least 6 of these stories being pitched to several national and international medias by the participants before the end of the program in February 2022. We believe this “pitching target” will be achieved beyond the threshold initially set. Financial and environmental abuses from European companies in the West African region were also greatly discussed on this occasion, becoming an almost inherent element to every single investigation developed with the groups – with a strong focus on natural resources exploitation.

While this cross-border training and mentoring program was also a renewed occasion to measure the extent of the needs West African journalists to achieve their work efficiently –  this in terms of financial and pedagogic resources alike – it also demonstrated to our European participants the necessity to work in a collaborative manner on international financial topics with well experienced and knowledgeable partners journalists, in order to improve both the quality of their reporting and the extend their cultural perspective.

This is especially the case in times when consortium-based and cross-border journalism initiatives alike have paved the way for what is set to be a brighter, more inclusive and more impactful future for investigative journalists worldwide, with the multiplication of networks and activities such as ours, ever since the impulse given by the ICIJ through their Offshore Leaks global investigations.

You’ll be reading the results of months of efforts and work from our participants in the near future! And we’ll be sure to let you know as soon as they come out!

By Alexandre Brutelle, Investigate “West Africa” Project Coordinator